lunch in afghanistan

The NICU was the only sliver of this world that Liam ever knew. Being so far removed from any influence of me, his mother, I hesitate to call it the only home he ever knew. To qualify as home there can’t be machines, or fluorescent lights, or charts, or sobbing parents. Had it been up to me, even for six weeks, there would have been music and crickets and fresh salty air to put roses on cheeks.

We walked through those halls today and despite the institutional pallor I was reminded: there is warmth and refuge there. Liam was poked and prodded incessantly but he was also cuddled and fed and sung to, loved not just by us but by his blessed den-mothers.

Today a gathering of our primary nurses beamed as Ben giggled and toddled his way through the transitional care nursery. He is almost foreign to them now, squirmy and coy, ten times the size of their skewed definition of everyday. With him in-arms they are joyful but a little bewildered—I always forget, that this is how a baby is supposed to feel, all substantial-like—and I want to say yeah, I KNOW. Isn’t it crazy, isn't it great?

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(To the mama of the girl dressed all in pink)

Today should have been her birthday, three-and-a-half months after she was born. Someday she’ll be underfoot in your kitchen tugging at your skirt, grinning up at you like a jack-o-lantern and you’ll think to yourself was that really us? I can hardly believe it even though right now, you’re walking around with your skin turned inside-out.

Someday you’ll be able to think of her twin without crying. You’ll breathe deeply and feel her saying to you it’s okay mama, I am watching you and look, look at my sister go and you’ll not see her smiling but you’ll feel it.

I wasn’t convinced of it for myself but I see it in you as plain as day. You are a warrior of a mama, more so than most mamas ever need to be. You feel like you’re spinning but you are not. As everything else spins around you, you stand your ground. And to me, you are fifty feet tall.

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Big news today: Ben has cracked the tenth percentile for weight. He climbed chairs and crawled like a boy on fire and lifted the cup for the blocks underneath and made it so they had to cross all the red flags off their list.

Despite the performance being scheduled for nap time he didn’t bonk until he came home, unraveled by an in-town stroller marathon and off-kilter eating. I look at him and think Go boy, go! Get mad. Tell us ‘Don’t you dare take that wallet ‘cause I-a chewin’ on it and don’ you DARE and I MEAN IT and while we’s at it I NO LIKE PEAS.’ Go boy, go.